Adventures in London

I am currently on a two week holiday in the UK. I organised this because (a) I was able to do it on Frequent Flier points; (b) it fitted in with submitting the final draft of my uni treatise; and (c) because there is an FIE A Grade Women’s Sabre on this weekend in London (and a satellite comp next weekend in Edinburgh).

I was a bit worried that I was choosing a rotten time of year in terms of weather, but the days have been beautifully clear – lots of blue sky, and no rain at all. However, it has certainly been very cold (at least by my standards) – gloves and a scarf have been mandatory, and I also bought a thermal hat: it looks really stupid, but it does keep my ears warm.

I’m staying at a place in Kensington – very central and remarkably cheap. The (very slight) downside is that it’s share bathroom, and I’m up three long flights of stairs, which is not a lot of fun with a fencing bag.

The first day I was here, I was absolutely exhausted from the flight (I don’t sleep at all on planes) so I just did a couple of local things to keep myself awake until the evening: went to Kensington Palace (which I’ve never seen before), wandered around the gardens and then went to the Victoria and Albert. Really enjoyed Kensington Palace, though by the time I got to the V&A I was just too tired to really take anything in. The gardens weren’t as lovely as in spring, but the bare trees were very striking, and snowdrops and other flowers were just starting to come out which was really nice.

I’m trying to go on an official “London Walk” every day. On Tuesday I did the “Secret London” walk in the city. Some of the highlights were Staple Inn (which I’m sure gets mentioned in Georgette Heyer somewhere), Dr Johnson’s house (including statue of Hodge, his cat) and St Ethereda’s Church (formerly the chapel of the Bishop of Ely’s London residence, and still technically part of Cambridgeshire). After the walk had finished, I went back and looked inside Dr Johnson’s house. In the evening, I went to the Swash and Buckle fencing club. It was a totally-sabre night, and I think there were more sabreurs in one room than there are in the whole of NSW.

On Wednesday I walked from Piccadilly Circus, through Green Park and St James’s Park to Trafalgar Square. Again, the bare trees made the parks very different from summer, but very attractive in their own way. After that I went out for the “Old Hampstead Village” walk. This included three bits of the heath, as well as some really nice parts of Hampstead. It was largely historical – she told us about the beneficial air, the waters, and the day trippers – and very interesting. There was a bit of pointing out the London houses of various celebrities (eg Judi Dench, Russell Crowe, Boy George) as well as the numerous blue plaque houses: one street had, at different times, been occupied by H G Wells, Constable, Wilkie Collins and Lord Alfred Douglas. I said above that it hadn’t rained at all while I’ve been in London, but for about 15 minutes of this walk, we had a light snowfall!


  1. Adelaide Dupont said,

    March 3, 2006 at 6:04 am

    Glad you’re enjoying life in Britain for two weeks.

    It was interesting to read about all sorts of movies, the new Pride and Prejudice especially (still haven’t got my body in gear to see it, though have read the book lots!). Wish you could come again in spring and see the gardens as they are meant to be seen – often the happiest part of a London trip for me from childhood. And the blue plaque houses are legendary! Tell more about Crowe and Dench, please.

  2. Michelle said,

    March 3, 2006 at 7:28 am

    Harriet – I didn’t know you were in London right now! I’m so jealous – I was last there about 3 years ago and it seems way too long ago. Enjoy the rest of your time there!

  3. Administrator said,

    March 3, 2006 at 8:49 pm


    Crowe – Emily (the guide) showed us a house and said we should recognise it, as the exterior was used in “Mary Poppins” (not having seen the film, I didn’t actually recognise it). She then told us about the eccentric ex-sailor who had originally owned it (used to fire cannons to greet the dawn and at the end of the day), and finally said that it had just recently been sold to Russell Crowe.

    Judi Dench’s house was at the end of a row – we looked down the lane behind them. They were very small, but very pretty, and, apparently, very, very expensive. Emily said there had been a fire there some years ago, and Judi Dench lost a lot of her theatrical memorabilia, because the fire engine had difficulty getting hoses down the lane.

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